Globe-Trotting Page-Turners

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Americans are buying travelogues and guidebooks like never before, says Walter Turney, manager of the Complete Traveller Bookstore in New York—even if they’re not using them to prepare for travel. The latest in escapist literature, these books “are very much like mysteries were 15 years ago,” he says.

Turney notes that “there’s a sense of humor and irony in much of the writing today, whereas the travel writers of the past were writing from a universalist point of view.” Indeed, Tim Cahill, who documents his globe-hopping in Pass the Butterworms (Vintage, 1998), and other “adventure travel” writers have little in common with the essayists of the past. Freya Stark immersed herself in the cultures of the Middle East for years in order to create her lyrical portaits of the area, some of which can be found in Oxford University Press’ Unsuitable for Ladies: An Anthology of Women Travellers, edited by Jane Robinson. Authors like Stark had the luxury of time and distance that modern technology obliterates: “They weren’t in constant touch with their editors via satellite,” syas Turney.

Tony Stucker, editor of Trips magazine, agrees that technology has changed travel and the way we write about it. But he says the end of the Cold War is also significant: “It wasn’t that long ago that a lot of places on the map were off-limits to Americans.” Now Rough Guides and Lonely Planet have produced a whole genre especially for those roads less traveled. Lonely Planet has even begun publishing travel narratives; Sean & David’s Drive Thru America, the second in a road trip series, will be out this spring.

GOING PLACES Trips magazine: (415) 431-5133 or www.tripsmag.com; Complete Traveller: (212) 685-9007; Lonely Planet: (800) 275-8555 or www.lonelyplanet.com.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest